Okay, here we go again. Time to lose the guilt and abandon sentiment.
Take a big shopping bag and go around the house filling it up with stuff you don't actually like or have moved on from liking.
Never mind that it was a gift. It's the thought that counts, so keep that.
Note: handmade stuff that the giver gave you within the last couple years and which you know they'd be horrified if they found you'd given it away or sold it should probably be given back to the maker. It's a tough call, but if the "it just doesn't fit me/my home" conversation is going to be less painful for them than the discovery that you tossed the giant portrait of your face they laboriously made out of your favorite flavors of jelly beans, then fess up that you value them and their kindness and their friendship, but just don't have a place for the gift anymore.
Take the plunge and purge the stuff that makes you sigh with resignation when you look at it. Just think how nice it will be to never have to see it again!
Grab a paper sack and see how fast you can fill it up with recycling.
Old newspapers, magazines, junk mail that didn't get properly processed when you carried it in, out-of-date coupons, sure, knock out the easy stuff.
But flex some real muscle and effect some real change in your file drawers by also purging user manuals for devices you no longer own, utility bills from 1998, and similar dead documents. (Don't forget to shred papers with personal information on them).
Get online and switch one bill over to electronic billing or pick up the phone and cancel one of those magazines or catalogs that helped fill your bag.
Now carry that bag out and put it in the bin. Hooray!
Here's a challenge for you: get 10 grocery bags of stuff out of your house by the end of the day.
Neatniks may have to resort to counting carrying out the trash & recycling, but us mere mortals should be able to achieve this goal with things that wouldn't have gone out anyhow.
– stuff to go to Goodwill or a similar charity that you already had waiting to take away
– borrowed things to return to to someone
– dry cleaning & alterations to be done
– books to return to the library
– stuff you have been intending to sell in a yard sale for over 10 months – give it to charity already, will ya?!
– stuff you never use ever but it's still perfectly good and you feel guilty about giving it away and… oh just get rid of it!
– canned food for the food bank
– clothes & shoes you never wear – whee! Charity is fun!
– wire hangers accumulated from the dry cleaner
Put more ideas in the comments and enjoy that lightened load!
Go read Derek Powazek's account of a recent purge of his music collection, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and then get yourself a fresh bag or box and make a few changes of your own.
It's A/V day.
Take a paper sack and go to where you keep all your videos and/or DVDs. Find the ones you don't plan on watching again in the next year. Put them in the sack. We will sort through the sack later, so go ahead and put in those old family videos.
Hunt down the other stashes of video entertainment and do the same. Got a box of old 8mm home movies in the basement? Bring it up.
Find every form of generating a flickering image on a screen and pull together all the examples which you have to confess you won't watch this year.
Now, these get sorted into groups:
#1 – return it to its rightful owner
#2 – get rid of it (sell or donate)
#3 – archive it
Put all the #1 items in the Give Back Basket (see Outbound Traffic)
Put all the #2 items with other things you're planning to part with. It may be worth checking the value of some things to see if they're worth selling online, otherwise, it often pays off to see if you can get trade credit for your old movies and music at a store where you already like to shop. Movies are also often good performers at yard sales. Just turn them into money or credit if it's not too much work, and donate the rest to the library. (Reminder: Yes, the public library has movies.)
Sort the #3 items by media. They are now archiving projects.
– DVDs are probably okay for the moment, but since it's easy, I'd recommend making a backup copy of anything home produced that could not be replaced.
– Laser discs are probably replaceable with current media and do you really still use the player? Don't keep things you don't have or plan to soon get a means to play.
– Videos are kind of a pain. If you still have a VCR that works great which you use regularly, then it's probably fine to have a box of old home videos in the basement. However, I do strongly recommend periodically backing them up onto alternate media such as DVDs since magnetic materials degrade.
For videos and older movie formats such as film, it's advisable to read up on how to store them for optimal survival and to investigate ways to make backup copies on current formats. Most communities have services who will transfer old media to new. This can be a really good investment for families who want to have multiple copies of those movies of great-grandpa & grandma.
In short, keep the things you use, protect the things you don't use regularly but treasure, and get the other stuff out of your way.
Go through all your cupboards and pull out anything old & nasty, which goes in the trash, and anything you just aren't going to eat in the next 30 days. That stuff should go in a bag and you should take it TODAY to your local food bank.
If you can make time for it, pull everything out, wipe down the cupboard & dust the cobwebs out, and then put back the keepers.
Update the shopping list with those staples you would eat in the next 30 days if only you had enough of them.
Okay, grab one of them there trusty paper sacks and head for your dressers.
Put into it all the clothes you don't wear anymore because they don't quite fit, are worn out, are the wrong color, etc.
This is a really good exercise for the day when you really really need to do laundry. What have you still not chosen to wear even when the choices are limited?
You may find that you have a whole category of clothes which is heavily slanted toward the bag; buy new ones that aren't bad. You deserve non-holey socks and non-stretched-out or stained undershirts and underwear that has functional elastic.
Get a paper sack and put in it all the pairs of shoes you haven't worn in the last year or which you wore and they made your feet feel like hell every time.
Sell them or donate them, fine, but just get them out!
You know the drill: get a couple big paper grocery sacks. Today it's toy patrol.
Grownups of all sorts, you have toys; don't think this doesn't apply to you.
Those of you with kids, this works much better if the kids help with the game of sending old toys on to a new home. That will spare you later resentment over something precious having been thrown away.
Now, go through the house and find those toys you never play with anymore. Check the closets for old sports equipment for things you don't play now. Got any little desk widgets that you're completely bored with? (Can you hear the sound of a hundred little plastic gewgaws flying into the bag around the world? Lovely isn't it?)
Did you upgrade a console game system, but keep the old one thinking you'd still break it out now and then? If it's covered in dust send it off to a new home.
How about those electronic gadgets? Anyone with more than one universal remote control, I am looking at you. Two pound digital camera from 1999 in the back of a drawer, anyone? Ahem. Bag it.
Now some of this stuff is worth selling on ebay or offering on craigslist, but do weigh the hassle of selling against the possible return. Often I find when I calculate the cost of my time handling the sale, it's better to just give the stuff to friends or charity.
Put the stuff in the appropriate Outbound Traffic and wave it bye-bye.
Many people engage in some kind of projects that involve supplies. Knitting. Carpentry. Scrapbooking. Stained glass. Building Linux servers. Whatever.
When one has a hobby, somehow, through a magical process, the supplies for that hobby proliferate beyond reasonable bounds. Perhaps they breed in the closets, but in any case, one day (today, for instance) you take a look and realize you have far more supplies than you've ever used since taking up the hobby.
Get a paper grocery bag and fill it up with your excess craft cruft. Depending on the hobby and the stuff, give it to a school or charity or throw it back in a dumpster (which may be where you rescued it from in the first place).